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Word into art
A sacred script
Arabic has a strongly sacred dimension. It is the language in which the Qur'an, the holy text of Muslims, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in seventh-century AD Arabia and the script in which it was written down. In order to preserve the revelation, Arab calligraphers began to transform what had been simple writings on stone into a range of subtle and beautiful scripts with structured sets of rules.
The Arabic script spread with the faith of Islam, becoming a source of inspiration for artists in the Middle East and beyond. Some continue today to practise the craft in its traditional form, copying large sections of the Qur'an. Others extend the boundaries of creativity by using verses, words or even single letters in different forms and on a variety of materials.
Illustration: Untitled by Fou'ad Kouichi Honda (Japan), black ink on coloured background, 2004. This is one of a series of three, each of which has verses from the Qur'an inscribed in mirror writing, with the left side written in reverse. In this case Qur'an 2:155 is used; the others, coloured in blue and green, use 28:88 and 55:26 respectively. Honda trained with the Turkish master Ustadh Hasan Çelebi, receiving his calligrapher's diploma (ijaza) in 2000. (2005.5-10.03, Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund)